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Blazers star Damian Lillard earning new moniker: NBA’s most annoying player

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Due to his age and the current state of the Portland Trail Blazers, Damian Lillard is unlikely to win an NBA championship with the team. However, with each twist in the ongoing speculation about his future, Lillard is inching closer to securing a different title: the NBA’s most frustrating player.

In the past, “Dame Time” referred to Lillard’s ability to sink incredible 40-foot shots during the playoffs. But now, it carries a different meaning. It’s time for Lillard to be transparent about his intentions regarding his future with the only franchise he has ever played for.

Enough is enough.

Lillard, who will turn 33 in a couple of weeks, finds himself at a career crossroads. Although he has had an impressive basketball career during his first 11 seasons, including a couple of deep playoff runs, he has not had a realistic chance at winning a championship. The Trail Blazers’ recent drafting of Scoot Henderson at the third overall pick, coupled with their inability to secure a trade for another established star, signals that it’s time to consider a new plan that might make them contenders when Lillard’s prime years are long gone.

Lillard deserves commendation for his commitment to staying in Portland and his desire to be forever associated with the city and the team. This sets him apart from numerous stars over the past decade who have demanded trades regardless of their contractual obligations.

However, based on recent interviews and messages conveyed through unofficial channels in the media, it’s evident that Lillard is wavering in his stance.

Unfortunately, the way this situation is playing out publicly is unbecoming of a player known for his maturity and professionalism.

Leading up to the draft, the speculation surrounding Lillard was somewhat tolerable. The Blazers had a unique opportunity with the third pick, which presented two clear paths: trading the pick and other young assets to give Lillard a chance at more playoff runs as he enters his mid-to-late thirties, or selecting Henderson and embracing a youth movement that would likely involve trading Lillard for significant assets.

Seems simple, right? Apparently not. As a result, the rest of us find ourselves rolling our eyes so frequently that it might become a medical condition.

The interactions between Lillard and the Trail Blazers leading up to the draft can only be described as some of the most passive-aggressive behavior we’ve witnessed in these inevitable separation scenarios. This is quite a statement considering the high bar set by LeBron James in similar situations.

Lillard believes he can win in Portland but doesn’t want to play with inexperienced players. He may or may not be open to the idea of playing in Miami. The team either did or did not communicate its plans to Lillard before the draft. And perhaps the most laughable piece of news is the report that the Blazers were not actively trying to trade Lillard to Miami, but instead, were hoping for a compelling package that would bring Bam Adebayo from a team that recently played in the NBA Finals.

However, the most recent and nauseating development occurred on Monday when Chris Haynes, a reporter with a close relationship with Lillard, stated that Lillard and his agent were meeting with Blazers executives to discuss the team’s direction. Hours later, general manager Joe Cronin issued a statement emphasizing their commitment to building a winning team around Lillard.

But the ultimate blow came through Haynes’ video on Bleacher Report’s website: “He doesn’t want to be on a team that’s just stacked. He doesn’t want to have a team where it’s just three All-Stars or three superstars battling that way. He just wants a team that has a shot.”

Lillard has been one of the NBA’s premier players for over a decade. However, whether he wins a championship or joins another highly competitive team is not of great importance in the grand scheme of things.

He isn’t a martyr if he stays in a small market for his entire career and settles for one conference finals appearance in 2019 as the peak of his success. Similarly, if Lillard goes to Miami or elsewhere and eventually wins a championship alongside other great players, it doesn’t fundamentally change much for him other than being able to say he played for a championship team.

The notion that he needs a title to be viewed in a certain way historically is mostly artificial, unless we are nitpicking among the greatest of the greats, a conversation Lillard isn’t part of anyway. He is a Hall of Fame caliber player, regardless of whether he touches a basketball again. At this stage, his legacy won’t be significantly impacted in either direction.

So, the question is, what does Lillard truly want to do, and what is realistic?

If Lillard’s goal is to genuinely contend for a championship, he needs to accept the reality that time and circumstances are not on his side in Portland and request a trade to find a better situation.

If his goal is to leave a lasting legacy as Portland’s revered king, he must fully commit to the idea that the Blazers might be ready to compete in important playoff games again when he’s in his late thirties.

Ultimately, the decision is up to Lillard. However, he must step up, eliminate the mixed signals, and make his intentions clear. While Lillard has spent the majority of his career as one of the NBA’s most admirable players, this prolonged limbo has cast an undeniably unflattering light on him.

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